Saturday, April 10, 2010

The New Republic Sets Up a Paywall

This morning I was reading an article about Justice John Paul Stevens on The New Republic's website. Stevens announced his retirement this week and there has been an outpouring of positive portrayals -- and the TNR article promised to examine the reasons for so much adulation.

Alas, I got two paragraphs into the article and discovered that TNR has set up a paywall!!

My two reactions:

1. This is a bummer. I'd recently begun reading TNR quite frequently and was really enjoying their analysis. The writers seem not to try quite as hard as Slate's writers to be counter-intuitive // go-against-the-grain.

2. This is a very interesting development. TNR must have decided they were not willing to (or couldn't, financially) maintain the all-free model, and so it raises the question of whether other similar sites will follow their lead. From my perspective, I'll stop reading TNR as much (their blogs and certain content will remain free, but the "long form" articles will require a subscription), because there are plenty of free alternatives (Slate, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Real Clear Politics, etc.). How many consumers will respond like me, versus how many will pony up and subscribe?

TNR's Editor Franklin Foer (here) gives a not very satisfying answer to the question of "why?," which makes me think this was largely a financial decision:

There’s also a deeper philosophical question: We charge our subscribers for our print journalism, because these are pieces that often require many months of reporting, writing, and editing. This style of journalism hasn’t exactly flourished in recent years, but it is at the core of our enterprise—and the reason many of us work at TNR. If we are so willing to place a price tag on such journalism in print, then why would we give it away in some other medium? We don’t have a good answer to that question. That’s the reason that we’re introducing the TNR Society. To read our “premium” content—namely, our print pieces and the bulk of our 96 years of archives—you’ll need a subscription.

429. What is the reason that Justice Stevens has received more positive attention than any other justice I can remember (even more than Sandra Day O'Connor at her retirement)?

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